Hurricane Irene, Part Two

Photo: Hurricane Irene off the North Carolina coast (Fox News.com) 

The prelude to a hurricane is always tense. The thick air. The unearthly calm. The waiting. I need to distract myself, and the best way I know is to cook. I’ve been meaning to try Jim Lahey’s no-knead pizza dough, but I have never had the time (or the patience, let’s be honest) to wait for the necessary slow rise. Today I did. I started the dough and then stowed the lawn furniture and whatnots in the garage, closed the storm windows, rescued the kitten who took the opportunity to climb out the window onto the roof–and settled in to wait. The dough takes a good two-to-three hours for the first rise. Plenty of time to make cookies.

Linzer Cookies (From Martha Stewart Living, December/January 1994-1995)

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/4 cups walnuts, ground medium fine (Martha uses hazelnuts, but I had walnuts in the house…)
1/2 cup raspberry jam, seeds removed (see below)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and zest. Add to butter mixture; beat on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Form dough into 3/4-inch balls, and roll in ground nuts. Place balls on ungreased baking sheet 1 inch apart. Bake until cookies begin to set, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven. Working quickly, make a slight indentation in each cookie with your thumb. Return to oven, and bake about 8 minutes more. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Put a fine metal strainer over a small bowl. Dump 3/4 cup of jam into the strainer and push the jam through using a wooden spoon. Put the now-seedless jam into a small saucepan over medium-low heat till it loosens up a little (no need to boil it!). Place 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of jam in each indentation. Cool completely.

Back to the pizza (weird lighting courtesy Hurrican Irene):
While the dough was in its second rise I prepared some simple toppings. Sliced farmstand tomatoes for one, and potato and onion for the other*. Both were delicious. You can find the recipe for the Pizza patate in Jim Lahey’s My Bread, but for the other I simply brushed some olive oil on the dough, put thin tomato slices in a single layer, sprinkled a little kosher salt and crushed red pepper. When serving, we grated a small amount of Parmigiano Reggiano over the top.

Lesson learned: My oven runs hot! The first pizza was slightly burned, so I turned the temp down to 450 degrees for the second one. Much better. You could use about half the amount of potatoes that Lahey calls for in the Pizza patate. And more onions, please.

*One slight change to the Pizza Patate: I had no fresh rosemary, but I did have lemon thyme growing in pots on the porch. I used the leaves from about four branches of the thyme. Lovely.

Post-hurricane update: The power went out at 7:30 am, moments before I planned to bake my bread. My gas oven has electronic controls, so the bread dough is sitting in the powerless refigerator. I may try doing the bread on the gas grill, as we may not get power until later in the week!

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